Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | November 27, 2011

Happy, sad, happy, sad

Jenna speaks of pumpkin pie on Bulgarian TV

Jenna speaks of pumpkin pie on Bulgarian TV.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I already had anticipated missing Jenna before she even arrived in Bulgaria for this past week’s visit. I had skipped all the way through the good times I knew we’d have and started anticipating how sad we’d feel that she was leaving.

Well, saying our goodbyes this morning was harder than I thought it’d be. But for all the right reasons.

Let me just jump back a few days.

It was a sweet reunion when we picked her up at the airport one short week ago. She was travel-weary but game. We quickly navigated the 90-minute drive back to Blagoevgrad, dragged her stuff into our apartment and a quickly skpped out for a nice dinner at one of our little neighborhood joints.

The next few days passed in a blur. We were teaching classes in between catching up, eating and drinking. We fell into our old patterns. Lazy mornings giving way to lazy afternoons giving way to fun and engaging dinners and a few late nights. We Skyped with some family and friends but mostly just hung together like the tight-knit little family we’ve always been. We laughed a lot and occasionally got on each others’ nerves. Just like old times.

The highlight of Jenna’s visit for us was the Thanksgiving dinner we enjoyed at one of our local spots, Casa Adria. Mark Waterhouse, Lubo, Todor and the rest of the gang made a fabulous feast fit for any American table. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce, pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie. We invited some of our AUBG colleagues to dine with us and there were dozens of students from all over the region who joined us there as well. The place was hopping all night long.

Better still was the prelude to dinner, when a TV news crew from Bulgarian television (Btv) showed up to do a story about Thanksgiving. They wanted to learn about the traditions — and the food — and they contacted AUBG to ask if they had anyone on staff who could speak to this uniquely American thing. The school contacted us and this was the result.

The picture that accompanies this post is a screen grab from the interview and the story is translated into Bulgarian so you can only hear snippets of us talking. But we had a great time (got to drink wine in the early afternoon, always a bonus) and got calls from friends and their family members who said they saw us on TV — from Bugas to Sofia to Varna to Blagoevgrad. Kind of trippy.

But the last few days of Jenna’s visit were a swirl of parties, food, a little bit of shopping, a lost coat (of Jenna’s, which disappeared mysteriously from a nightclub late Friday night), a new coat (thanks, Mom!) and a long and somewhat melancholy trip back up to Sofia. We had a sweet and teary farewell. Then Melody and I turned and headed back home. Home to Blagoevgrad.

That seems so odd to say. But it is home. At least for now.

We like how things have progressed here this year and we’re eager to see what’s around the next corner. We say it often, how we miss our friends, what our “previous life” offered. The sense of familiarity, the sense of certainty, the sense of belonging. Right now, though, this is where we are with all the uncertainty, unfamiliarity and disconnectedness that goes with it.

At some point we’ll return. When we do, it’ll be because we’ve been pulled back into that familiar orbit of family, of oneness that comes from liking the people you love. We do love that girl. And like her, too.



  1. beautifully written as always.

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